23rd Sunday of Ordinary time, Year A
In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us of our responsibility to one another in mutual correction. This is not an option but a duty that arises from Christian responsibility. This entails we owe our neighbor fraternal or brotherly correction. Love demands that we do everything we can to correct a brother or sister who is doing wrong to us. It follows three s stages:
First: one has to talk personally to the brother, man to man, face to face. Everything must be resolved in secret, to prevent someone from finding out what happened.
The second step to take is to ask for help from one or two sensible and wise brothers of the community. Never forget the goal: the recovery of the brother. One should never give the impression of cornering him or putting him in front of someone who looks for ways to convict. He must perceive that he is dealing with friends who want his good and willing to testify in front of the brothers of his good disposition.
The last stage is the recourse to the community. This can happen only when the sin committed risks to disturb the brothers and sisters, especially those who are weak in the faith. If so and the culprit does not want to amend, then he must be considered as a pagan and as a publican.
For a better interpretation of today’s Gospel it is necessary to place it in its context. The whole chapter from which it is taken (Mt 18) is about the rapports between the members of the Christian community: who should be considered the first, great and small, how to avoid scandals, what attitudes to take towards one who turns away from the faith, how to develop love and promote harmony among the disciples, how often must one grant forgiveness.
Every Christian is a shepherd of his brother. No one can say like Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). What do we see in our own context? Gossiping, spreading the news of the error, and backbiting. This is known clearly as defamation. It serves only to marginalize one who did wrong, to humiliate him. It makes him increasingly stubborn in evil and to needlessly make him suffer. It is equivalent to losing forever the opportunity to recover him.
Love is concern and it shows itself in the interest we take for the welfare of others. This entails being able to warn someone who is doing evil. Today’s’ first reading makes us understand that : “if you do not warn the wicked to renounce his ways, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death (Ezekiel 33:8)
The key of today’s reflection is found thus in Fraternal or brotherly or sisterly correction!
Fr. Jude Thaddeus Langeh, cmf
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